Medicare re-admissions…one scenario

by Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

The federal government is concerned about the incidence of Medicare re-admissions.

Typical scenario: an elderly patient is admitted to the hospital for pneumonia and related distress. After a four day stay the patient is discharged to a long-term care facility.

A week later the patient is readmitted with acute distress, after the nurse requests orders from the patient’s physician. After several days the patient is again discharged to the nursing home.

This cycle is very costly to Medicare, and the feds would like to see it slow down.

(Based on conversations with long-term care nurses and reviews of Minimum Data Set (MDS) summaries, the patients are usually very old, very frail, but not at death’s door quite yet.)

One solution is to ‘train” physicians and families not to be so quick to send the patient back to the hospital. This is tough on families, who often pressure the physician to readmit. Sometimes the patient demands readmission, it is easy for the physician to say yes. This can also be tough on the nursing home, where higher acuities are colliding with the nursing shortage.

A proposed solution is bundling. President Obama mentioned it in his 6/15 speech to the AMA. How does it work? The hospital gets a flat fee per incidence and then has to pay the physician, nursing home, ambulance/transport company, physical therapist, etc.

This requires a lot of administrative work and some intense negotiations, and puts the hospital at significant risk.

Could this work? Maybe. Is it good for Medicare? Probably yes. Good for patients? Unknown. Good for physicians? It depends.
Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt